March 30, 2012

"New Adult" Niche: Interview with Jennifer Comeaux

I'm happy to welcome Jennifer Comeaux, author of Life on the Edge, to the blog today for an interview! This is part of the "New Adult" Niche feature I'm doing for my "New Adult" Reading Challenge

First, a bit about Life on the Edge and Jennifer Comeaux:

 "Nineteen-year-old Emily is new to pairs skating, but she and her partner Chris have a big dream–to be the first American team to win Olympic gold. Their young coach Sergei, who left Russia after a mysterious end to his skating career, believes they can break through and make history. 

Emily and Chris are on track to be top contenders at the 2002 Winter Games. But when forbidden feelings spark between Emily and Sergei, broken trust and an unexpected enemy threaten to derail Emily's dreams of gold." (from Goodreads)
Jennifer's bio (from her Goodreads profile):
"Jennifer Comeaux earned a Master of Accounting from Tulane University and is a Certified Public Accountant in south Louisiana. While working in the corporate world, she sought a creative outlet and decided to put on paper a story that had played in her head for years. That story became Life On the Edge, her first published novel.

When not working or writing, she is an avid follower of the sport of figure skating, travelling to competitions around the country. Those experiences allow her to see another side of the sport and serve as an inspiration for her writing. Jennifer is blessed with a wonderful family and many friends who have encouraged her to pursue her dream of being a published author.

And now for the questions...

1.) Your novel Life on the Edge features a 19-year-old protagonist and can be considered New Adult. Was it a conscious decision on your part to set the story during this stage of Emily's life? Did you consider lowering her age to fit the conventional definition of YA, or raising it to appeal to older adult readers?  

I always envisioned Emily as a 19-year-old at the beginning of the story (the book spans almost two years of her life). Since the story focuses on a romance between Emily and her coach Sergei, who is in his mid-twenties, I wanted to make sure she was an appropriate age for the relationship. I also liked the age because she could be living on her own and tackling issues without her parents around for constant guidance.

I knew if I tried to shop the book to agents, they would probably want me to change Emily’s age, so that’s one of the reasons I went with a smaller publisher. I had more control over my story, and the publisher believed in it one hundred percent. No one who’s read it and has given me feedback has had an issue with the age, so I’m glad I stuck with my instincts!

2.) In what ways do you feel that the challenges and issues Emily faces as a "new adult" resonate with readers? Have you noticed that readers of a certain age or demographic gravitate towards Life on the Edge 

I think so many readers can identify with Emily’s feelings of falling in love for the first time–that true, passionate love that you know will last forever. Emily doesn’t lead the typical “new adult” life–she’s not in college or working at a full-time job because figure skating is her career–but she still discovers new things about herself through her skating, her part-time coaching job, and her relationship with Sergei. I think a lot of people go through that kind of self-discovery when they’re in college or just starting their professional careers.

What’s been great about the reader response so far has been the wide variety of ages that have enjoyed the book. I’ve received great feedback from teens, readers in their early twenties, and lots of older adult readers, too. There hasn’t appeared to be one demographic that’s picked it up more than another. I love that adults are enjoying YA and new adult books so much!

4.) Do you read New Adult books for fun? If so, what are a few you could recommend

I do! A couple that I’ve enjoyed are The Man of My Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld and Commencement by J. Courtney Sullivan.

5.) How do you see the category of New Adult progressing over the next few years? 

I think with the surging popularity of YA novels, New Adult books can also gain popularity. Teens are reading now more than ever, and they’re going to want books that speak to them as they transition into “new adulthood.” I’d love to see more publishers embrace the genre.

6.) It has been argued that college students don't have time to read for pleasure, and so there isn't a market for New Adult books. How would you respond to that? And do you think that New Adult books might appeal to readers other than college-aged individuals? 

I think college students need an escape from their required reading! I definitely think New Adult books would appeal to readers other than college-aged individuals. As a reader in her mid-thirties, I enjoy those stories quite a bit, just as much as I enjoy young adult books. I like the added maturity of the characters in New Adult novels. They’re more mature than the teens in YA books but still haven’t quite found their way in the world yet. Just like adults enjoy reading YA books, I think they would also enjoy New Adult books if more of them found their way to the market.

Thanks so much, Jennifer, for dropping by and talking about New Adult with us! 

Readers, what do you think about the argument that "college students don't read for fun"? 

Also, it's not too late to join the "New Adult" Reading Challenge! To sign up, fill out THIS FORM.

March 28, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Unspoken and Stormdancer

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

This week's picks:

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Goodreads' description: 

"Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the- Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?"

This one sounds like it could be a lot of fun. The name of her town is fantastic and mysterious manors are, of course, inherently awesome. I'm interested in how the whole imaginary-friend-turned-real thing is going to be explained.
Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff

Goodreads' description:

The Shima Imperium verges on the brink of environmental collapse; decimated by clockwork industrialization and the machine-worshipers of the Lotus Guild. The skies are red as blood, land choked with toxic pollution, wildlife ravaged by mass extinctions.

The hunters of Shima's imperial court are charged by their Shōgun to capture a thunder tiger – a legendary beast, half-eagle, half-tiger. But any fool knows thunder tigers have been extinct for more than a century, and the price of failing the Shōgun is death.

Yukiko is a child of the Fox clan, possessed of a hidden gift that would see her executed by the Lotus Guild. Accompanying her father on the Shōgun’s hunt, she finds herself stranded: a young woman alone in Shima’s last wilderness, with only a furious, crippled thunder tiger for company. Even though she can hear his thoughts, even though she saved his life, all she knows for certain is he’d rather see her dead than help her.

But together, the pair will form an indomitable friendship, and rise to challenge the might of an empire."

Japan + steampunk + fantasy = majorly different from everything else out there! Plus, the girl on the cover is not swinging a sword while dressed in a pretty gown, which makes it seem so much more realistic. Love the crimson blossoms!

What books are you waiting for?

March 25, 2012

In My Mailbox (49)

In this meme, hosted by Kristi at The Story Siren, we share the books we've received, bought or taken out from the library. This post covers the past couple weeks.

For review:

Loss by Jackie Morse Kessler
Dead is a Battlefield by Marlene Perez
Illuminate by Aimee Agresti
Croak by Gina Damico

Thank you very much, Thomas Allen & Son, for the surprise package of books!

From the library:
Supernaturally by Kiersten White
Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead
A Need So Beautiful by Suzanne Young
Extra Credit by Andrew Clements
Cousin Kate by Georgette Heyer (adult)
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick (adult)

The Big Crunch by Pete Hautman
A Crimson Warning by Tasha Alexander (adult)
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson


As you know, I just can't resist library discards!

The Plague by Philip Wooderson
The Karma Club by Jessica Brody

March 24, 2012

Cover Reveal: The Glimpse by Claire Merle

I know I'm a bit late with this cover reveal, but in case you haven't seen it yet, here it is...

And here's the blurb from Goodreads:
"Once you've seen into the future, can you change your destiny?

In a near future, society is segregated according to whether people are genetically disposed to mental illness. 17-year-old Ana has been living the privileged life of a Pure due to an error in her DNA test. When the authorities find out, she faces banishment from her safe Community, a fate only thwarted by the fact that she has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell.

Jasper is from a rich and influential family and despite Ana’s condition, wants to be with her. The authorities grant Ana a tentative reprieve. If she is joined to Jasper before her 18th birthday, she may stay in the Community until her illness manifests. But if Jasper changes his mind, she will be cast out among the Crazies. As Ana’s joining ceremony and her birthday loom closer, she dares to hope she will be saved from the horror of the City and live a ‘normal’ life. But then Jasper disappears.

Led to believe Jasper has been taken by a strange sect the authorities will not intefere with, Ana sneaks out of her well-guarded Community to find him herself. Her search takes her through the underbelly of society and into the pits of the human soul. And as she delves deeper into the mystery of Jasper's abduction she uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she has grown up to believe, but she also learns to love as she has never loved before."

What do you think of the cover? It's simple, but I like the symbolism there, and the teal shade makes the heart stand out.

March 22, 2012

Friendship on Fire: A Panoramic Review (And Giveaway!)

"Daisy Brooks’s senior year is not off to a great start. Her first assembly as school captain is slightly ruined by her new bright orange hairdo – thanks to her father’s inability to choose correct permanent hair dye. The local Blonde Brigade is already giving her a hard time (and affectionately dubbed her ‘ranga’) and her teachers have done the unthinkable and handed out assignments on the first day back.

The one bright spot in Daisy’s first day back is the appearance of a private school boy hottie. Oh, and her best friend and vice-captain, Roman, who she can count on to hold her temper and have her back.

But the winds of change are sweeping through Daisy’s small town of Twin Rocks. Turns out the private school hottie is new in town and fast friends with her brothers. His name is Nate and he turns Daisy’s legs to jelly. But her totally platonic best friend, always reliable Roman, is starting to act strange.

This is Daisy’s senior year. She’ll learn hard truths and lose small battles on the path to adulthood . . . but, hey, nobody said it was going to be easy.
" (from Goodreads)
Friendship on Fire by Danielle Weiler

My reaction: Very mixed, overall. Honestly, my initial reaction after reading the first couple chapters was: this writing needs help and I'm not liking the main character. I was a bit worried it could end up being a DNF, but I persisted and actually ended up getting caught up in it.

I'm not going to lie, I found Daisy to be very annoying much of the time. She struck me as whiny, extremely melodramatic, and self-centered. She acted like the whole world revolved around her — not uncommon for a teenager, but hardly an endearing trait. However, to be fair, she had some good qualities as well. I respected it when she stuck to her principles (although I think she needed to do so more often, as she placed way too much value
on Nate's opinions and wants) and showed some pride, and I liked that she decided for herself how she wanted her relationship with Nate to progress in terms of intimacy. By the end, Daisy had grown on me (although my favourite character has to be Roman.) But you may find yourself wanting to smack some sense into her because she can't see what's right in front of her!

The supposed immediate attraction between Daisy and Nate seemed too contrived to be believable. But the infatuation stage Daisy went through feels genuine, and Nate turns out to be a more complex character than you might expect at first. I appreciated that Weiler does not pinpoint him in a black-and-white kind of way. Rather, he lingers in a murky, gray area that will keep you questioning, at least for a while. The fact that in general the characters are not portrayed as "wholly good" or "wholly bad" helps to round them out and make them more realistic.

And the Aussie slang used certainly lends an air of authenticity to the setting. (But what I don't get: what do Australians have against redheads?)

Best aspect: the relationship between Daisy and Roman. Yes, it is strained through much of the book, but when it isn't, I really enjoyed their easy friendship and the fact that Daisy could be herself around Roman. I can definitely root for a friends-turned-more romantic storyline, and wanting to see whether Daisy and Roman would finally get together was a good part of what kept me reading (that, and wondering whether Daisy would ever smarten up.) I did think, though, that the problems between them are drawn out too long. It basically takes the whole book before things get resolved, and it clocks in at 471 pages!

It was a nice change seeing a fairly "normal" family in a YA book, since so often really dysfunctional families are featured. In particular, Daisy's interactions with her three older brothers were fun to read about. (I don't have any brothers, older or younger, so that was fun for me!) I also liked seeing Daisy's friendships with Sarah and Shana take off and get a bit of time in the spotlight.

If I could change something... it would be the writing.
Having taken several editing courses, I actually found it kind of painful to read at times. There are punctuation and grammar issues throughout, problems with switching tense randomly, cheesy dialogue in places, and very weird, awkward expressions used that may make you go, "What exactly does this mean?" The writing suffers from an overabundance of semi-colons and an under-appreciation of commas, along with a marked preference for the word "cheeky." Plus, the humour in there by and large just didn't work for me. I'm not sure if it's just not my style or what, but Daisy would laugh at something and I'd be going, "What's so funny?"

I thought that Daisy's voice sometimes felt very inauthentic for her age. It was uneven throughout —  sounding realistically teenage in one section, too young in another, and then seeming far too mature (this last happened especially when she came to "realizations" about her past actions and attitudes.)

Just one more thing I want to mention: maybe it's just me, but at times I felt the tone was sort of old-fashioned and moralistic. Some of the messages the author was trying to send come off too heavy-handed and obvious, as though it's being pointed out to the reader that Daisy is growing up.


In that moment it was like I became deaf. It hit me hard and fast with such force that I literally couldn't hear anymore. My voice followed; I could see their lips moving, but I couldn't answer them if I wanted to. My vision blurred at the shock of the scene before me.

Legs aching, I turned and broke into a run. Not far away, Skye stood smiling at me with the crew from Addison Grammar. They turned to watch me in slow motion, smug indifference in their eyes, their lips slightly curled at the edges. So they knew.

Final verdict: 3 shooting stars. I was wavering here between 2.5 and 3 stars. While I think the writing could be significantly tightened, smoothed out and just generally improved, once I got into the story I found it fairly readable.

Disclaimer: I received this book for review from the author.

Note: this book contains some mature sexual content.

This book counts towards my goal for the Just Contemporary reading challenge.

The author has generously offered 2 ebook copies of Friendship on Fire as a giveaway! If you'd like to be entered to win, please leave a comment on this post with your e-mail address. The giveaway will end on Mar. 31 at 11:59 pm EST.

March 19, 2012

Cross My Palm: YA Covers

This is a series of posts I'm doing discussing current trends in YA genres and what might be in store for the future. This is just based on my own observations of books and what I've seen publishers/authors/other bloggers talking about.

Okay, so this time around it's not a genre, but covers I'll be talking about. This will probably be the last Cross My Palm post, at least for a while — although I may return to this feature in the future! Catch up on all the others here.

  • The about-to-kiss (or sometimes even middle-of-kiss) covers. I know this trend has been discussed by other bloggers on more than one occasion (Stacked has a great post on "almost-kiss" covers here, and Lori from Pure Imagination highlights "kissing/hugging" covers in her On Top of the Covers feature here). I don't really have a problem with these covers the same way some bloggers do, but then, I rarely read in public. If I did, though, I'm not so sure I would pick one of the following to take along: Something Like Normal by Trish Doller, First Comes Love by Katie Kacvinsky, The Thing About The Truth by Lauren Barnholdt, or When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle. This trend seems to be found primarily in the contemporary YA genre, as is the next one.

  • The "couple standing in profile having a magical moment" covers. These are a cousin to the about-to-kiss covers — ones like Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill, The Summer of No Regrets by Katherine Grace Bond, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith, Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry, My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick, Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti, and While He Was Away by Karen Schreck. These I am generally a fan of, actually. Less lip action, more adorable cuteness. 

 Seriously, though, even the colour schemes of the backdrops are similar with these covers!

  • The HUGE FONT covers. These covers seem to think they're making a statement or something. Like, "My font is SO GINORMOUS that I must be super important and deep. Read me!" This is only emphasized all the more if the font happens to be bold, clean and sans serif, as is the case with many of the following examples: Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown, When You Were Mine by Rebecca Serle, What's Left Of Me by Kat Zhang, The Best Night of Your Pathetic Life by Tara Altebrando, Never Let You Go by Emma Carlson Berne, Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield, Ten by Gretchen McNeil, and Something Like Normal by Trish Doller.

  • Masks. I can't really complain about these because you have to admit they're pretty, but...maybe the cover designers could vary it just a little more, and have something other than a close-up of a girl's face wearing a glittering half-mask? Cross My Heart by Sasha Gould, The Girl in the Mask by Marie-Louise Jensen, and Venom by Fiona Paul look remarkably similar; the exception here is Ironskin by Tina Connolly, which happily manages to give us some atmosphere as well as the character in her entirety. Covers with masks seem to be found mostly in the historical YA genre at present.

  • Reflections. These are mostly in water, but occasionally in mirrors, and not to be confused with the separate but related "girl submerged in water" trend (link to another cover trend post from Stacked). Reflections can be found in the covers of Through to You by Emily Hainsworth, The Unquiet by Jeannine Garsee, The Selection by Kiera Cass, All These Lives by Sarah Wylie, One Moment by Kristina McBride, The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes, Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson, and Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins.

  • Butterflies. I'm not too sure why, but for whatever reason, butterflies seem to be gracing YA covers left and right at the moment. Recent and upcoming butterfly cover books include: Possession by Elana Johnson, Pure by Julianna Baggott, Incarnate by Jodi Meadows, The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison, Haven and Mirage by Kristi Cook, Middle Ground by Katie Kacvinsky, A World Away by Nancy Grossman, and The Other Life by Susanne Winnacker. Interestingly, several of these books are dystopian/post-apocalyptic. (Symbolism, anyone? :D)

And then there are...
  • The cover styles that have become so ingrained in YA that they aren't even trends anymore. Namely, close-ups of faces (usually Caucasian girls), the off-with-their-head covers (usually Caucasian girls), and of course, the ubiquitous "pretty dress" ones (do I really need to say who these usually are?) A couple of points here. First, I'd love to see the "whitewashing" of YA covers stop entirely and more covers featuring PoC characters being created and used. Second, do you agree that these "trends" can no longer be considered as such, but rather something more permanent in YA cover design? Or do you think we have a hope of escaping the pretty dress phenomenon someday?  
So, readers: have you noticed the above trends in covers? Any that I missed? What are your favourite/least favourite trends?

Also, for a blog devoted to honest appraisals of YA cover art/design, be sure to check out That Cover Girl if you haven't already!

March 16, 2012

Forget-Me-Nots: Of Two Minds

Forget-Me-Nots is a feature on my blog for highlighting books I enjoyed in childhood and the teenage years that I don't see getting much attention nowadays.

Of Two Minds by Carol Matas & Perry Nodelman

Goodreads' description:

"The complex plot follows the adventures of Lenora, a headstrong princess with the power to make anything she imagines real, and Coren, the shy prince chosen by her parents to be her husband. Trapped in a strange land and stripped of their powers (Coren had been able to read the thoughts not only of humans, but also of animals and objects), the two must work together to overthrow the tyrannical Hevak, restore harmony to the country, and return home safely."

This is the first in a series that has to be one of the wackiest, most out-there fantasy series I've ever read. The events can be super complicated at times (especially in the later books), but if you don't try too hard to rationally follow everything that's going on, and just allow yourself to go with the flow, you'll likely end up rooting for the main characters Lenora and Coren, and enjoying the outlandish escapades. (Although, just a warning that the books just get weirder and weirder as the series progresses.)

Has anyone else read this book (or the sequels)? What did you make of it?

March 14, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: Alice on Board and Who I Kissed

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine and features books that we just can't wait to get our hands on!

This week's picks are both contemp YA reads:

Alice on Board by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

From the publisher's website:

"In her last adventure before starting college, Alice takes to the open sea for the summer—and nothing can stop the tides of change.

Everything Alice has ever known is about to change—from where she sleeps at night to how close her closest friends will be. So Alice is meeting that seasick feeling head-on by setting sail as staff on a Chesapeake Bay cruise ship. And like any last great adventure before starting college, Alice knows she’ll need sunblock, an open mind, and…oh yeah, all her best girlfriends. It’s the perfect summer job.

Perfect, that is, when things are going perfectly. But when they’re not, Alice has to figure out how to weather unexpected storms of all sorts. Which could be perfect after all—perfect training for her next big adventure—college."

I grew up reading and loving the Alice series, and I think this is the second last book. While I've kind of "grown out" of Alice's story in a way, I still have a sentimental attachment to this series. I think I'll be a little sad when the final book comes out!

Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler

Goodreads' description:

"Janet Gurtler's WHO I KISSED, in which a girl struggles with boy problems and serious regret after accidentally killing a boy she barely knows when she kisses him after consuming a peanut butter sandwich, not aware he has a deathly allergy to peanuts."

I haven't read either of Janet's other books, but I particularly love this premise. Students are often warned about bringing anything with peanut butter to their lunches at school because of the potential for a serious allergic reaction from a fellow student. Mix that up with a "kiss of death" and you have an awesome hook for a story!

What books are you waiting for?

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